Sunday, June 13, 2010

Move the House

Today I led a community walk. An art walk. At one gallery we visited we could see the artist's backyard.

Many of us walkers took a lot of interest in her back yard and in her garden which was full of midsummer fecundity.

The artist/gardener pointed out a tree in her neighbor's yard, not that it needed any pointing out. There stood an enormous and impressive Bay Laurel tree.

She said, "See that tree? It's over 1,000 years old. That tree is the second oldest Bay Laurel tree in the all of California."

It was truly impressive. I snapped its photo, but my photo fails almost completely to convey the tree's nobility. With apologies for that, here:

 

Standing in its shade, I felt honored to be in the presence of a truly holy being.

A venerable elder. As I said a silent prayer to it, one of my walking companions commented, "It looks like the old tree could be leaning towards the house. It should be cut down."

I felt a rush of anger run through my body, washing the prayer right out of me. I contained my anger and watched it turn into sadness and hurt. Ten seconds later, the anger was almost gone and I was simply overcome with sadness. How could that woman so immediately wish that this tree, perhaps 20 times her senior, be killed, murdered for leaning?

"My God," I wondered to myself,  "Is our human species really this murderous?"

 I realized that my sadness is of no use to the tree. I tried to think of a more creative response.

I was able to come up only with this idea, "Maybe," I replied as mildly as I could, "Since the house is only 50 years old, they could move the house."

12 comments:

Bonnie said...

A compassionate, courageous, creative heart speaks the truth. Wonderful thing is ... we know you live it too.

Thanks Dan for finding a way to shine a light, lovingly, on the truth for that confused woman.

Delwyn said...

Hi Dan

I like this blog layout. It is very clear and serene.

The tree is majestic.
200 times older than the lady of questionable values...with rights...

happy days

steven said...

dan - nice compromise. to reconcile two divergent needs and allow them to converge in a manner that's healthy for all. steven

jinksy said...

A little strategic pruning may be a good, alternative solution- we all could do with a haircut from time to time...

The Pollinatrix said...

I'm glad you posted this - it's a great story, with a perspective that offers a much needed alternative to the common ways people view such things.

I love your new profile pic!

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Bonnie. Thank you for that very kind comment. My experience felt confusing to me in the moment. I must say I really felt overcome for a few seconds there. But I needed to say something for the noble tree.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Delwyn. I thought you might recognize the layout. There's a blog out there, somewhere, somewhere, that looks a bit like this one.

Ancient trees have a strong presence for me. When I was visiting Saga Prefecture on Kyushu we visited a similar tree which was revered by the people who lived nearby. It was something of a "tourist" attraction and thought to make the rice fields near it especially productive.

I bow to the Japanese for listening to their ancient trees. Yes, trees have rights.

In our town you need a permit to cut down ancient trees like that one, a city ordinance for which I am grateful, but which I know is controversial even in our town as being "excessive government regulation that curtails individual property owners' freedoms" something like that, anyway.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, steven. Thanks. My guess is that the woman who suggested cutting down the tree felt misunderstood by me. Actually, 25 years ago, I have myself had a (much younger and less noble Douglas fir) tree cut down for leaning towards my house. Leaning towards the bedroom my daughter would sleep in when she was born. So perhaps the anger rose so quickly because I'm guilty as charged of the same act. I wasn't about to move my house....

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Jinksy. I have to say that our hair doesn't have any neurons, so haircuts are painless for us. I don't think that's so with trees. And, I'm not sure, really that the tree was leaning. To me it looked the picture of health.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Polli. Thanks. Well, it was another perspective, at least. Something. If we were more like the Japanese, we'd relocate the surrounding houses and put a little tree-honoring city park around the venerable tree and invite people to invoke its power and wisdom for the benefit of all who visited it.

Todd said...

lovely picture of the tree Dan....
funny how if it doesn't seem expedient to us at first, we're ready to 'do away with.'

not to mention an occasional visit from a good arborist to check for rot, root condition, etc. is a good way to keep that tree right where it's at for awhile longer :)

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Todd--

Thanks for dropping by. Yeah, human beings surprise me sometimes. Most of the people on the walk responded to the tree's age more like the way I did, with awe and admiration. As for arborists, yeah, and maybe a Native American prayer or two, as well.